Only Israeli – Leumit League makes mark

Dec 2, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Basketball fans in Jerusalem have been lucky over the past couple of weeks with hoops returning to the capital city. First the women’s league graced the Malha Arena court and then the Leumit League, Israel’s second division returned to action with the same facility being used as a “bubble” due to the war with Hamas in similar fashion to that which was used during COVID around the world.

A number of teams will use the 2,000 seat arena as their home away from home including Elitzur Ashkelon who recorded their first victory of the season by clipping Maccabi Maale Adumim 92-90 in an entertaining affair.

The Leumit League, which features 13 teams this season will also be played with Israelis only and no foreigner players as they would have normally done in a regular year. However, due to the war, the league decided that the teams would not be able to fill their two import slots and just go with blue-and-white players who are primarily young guns looking to make the step up to the top division.

With that in mind, the Leumit League should be super interesting this season as players who have featured for the Israel National youth teams over the past few years will be taking center stage to display their talents and will be given plenty of playing time to hone their skills.

Elitzur Ashkelon – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

While the top division teams do not have minor league teams per se once their players “graduate” from the youth system, the Leumit takes that place as players who are part of clubs like Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Herzliya to name a few move on to the second division which is a professional league. The hope is that they will continue to develop and then be able to step into a role with their parent club.

That of course is not always the case and a player that perhaps had belonged to Maccabi Tel Aviv does not have spot in the first division but may for a smaller team like Kiryat Ata and may eventually end up playing there.

Some of the players to keep an eye on include Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Shachar Doron and Yuval Levin who are now plying their trade with Elitzur Shomron, Herzliya’s up and coming big man Alon Michaeli who is at Netanya along with another yellow-and-blue product in Ori Cohen and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Ilay Dolinsky as well while Galil Elyon’s Ron Cohen who is at Maccabi Haifa.

Other players to check out are Ben Onche at Nahariya, Daniel Guetta, Amit Aharoni and Ziv Weissman with Hapoel Gilboa Galil as well as Tal Peled with Rechvot.

Tomer Agmon – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Over at Ashkelon the one hundred or so fans were treated to seeing a pair of young players looking to take the next step in heir young careers in Eliad Tal and Tomer Agmon.

The 19-year old Agmon who scored 15 points in the win over Maale Adumim was with Maccbi Tel Aviv’s senior squad last season where he was able to train with top level pros while playing sparingly throughout the campaign. Tal, at 21 years of age played with Hapoel Ramat Gan last season in the Leumit while he also featured in the starting lineup for the Under-20 Israel National team that went to the semifinals of the 2022 tournament was the game’s MVP and checked in with a nifty 17 point and 11 rebound double-double.

This is why the Leumit League this year will be such an amazing force for Israeli basketball.

Tal spoke about the victory to begin the season on the right foot, “It’s always great to begin the season with a win especially in this area where we had some of our fans but many were not with us and we home. Now we have to turn of sights onto next game.”

Eliad Tal – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

The forward not only was consistent throughout the game, he also drew the game’s most critical foul as time was becoming a premium near the end of the game which put him on the line to give Ashkelon the lead for good.

“I did what the team needed from me, we didn’t play as well as we had wanted to for most of the game and we will need to work on many things which we will do in practice.”

While Ashkelon will not have any imports, they do have a couple of naturalized Israelis, one being 30-year old Clarke Rosenberg who brings a wealth of experience to the team which will be a huge help to the younger guys throughout the campaign.

“Our naturalized Israelis just arrived right before the game so they weren’t in tip tip shape and hadn’t been with us for a while. We have to work together as a unit on and off of the floor and hopefully there will be some quiet so we will be able to do just that.”

Ben Eisenhardt – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Ashkelon is also in the unique situation where they also have a number of wily veterans in Ben Eisenhardt and Nimrod Tishman who have been around the block for quite some time and can be a real help in any Leumit team that has aspirations of moving up a league and earn promotion by the end of the season. However, after just one game it’s obviously a little too seen to know what the deck of cards will hold for this club.

“It’s early to say if we can move up to the Premier League and I hope that we have that ability as it’s something we talk about and it’s one of our big goals for this season. We will be there is we keep working hard and be modest and we will get to where we will need to be.”

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